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Some aspects of Chinese toilets

Dujiangyan Bridge Toilet
Very smart men’s toilets at Dujiangyan, an ancient irrigation scheme (256 BC) and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Anyone who has travelled knows that public restroom facilities are something that cannot be avoided. However, one member of the New Zealand China Friendship Society, who has visited China several times over the years, recently compared notes with a fellow traveller and discovered that some things are far better than their reputation, at least for 50% of the population…

At least up until late 2013, when my wife and I last visited China (on the NZCFS ‘Diverse China’ Tour), the reputation was that Chinese toilets leave something to be desired!  

My wife and I recently compared notes and she told me that her experience had largely confirmed this. However, I assured her that, in general, men’s toilets in China were clean and in some cases even beautiful! 

So, I thought I would provide some examples of this, and at the same time provide a couple of hopefully useful tips for future travellers.

Major Tourist Sites – “World Heritage” class

I found the toilets at major tourist sites to be scrupulously clean and sometimes even pleasing to the eye!  For example, here are some photos of the toilets at the Humble Administrator’s Garden in Suzhou, and at the Dujiangyan Irrigation Scheme near Chengdu, Sichuan province. Both are World Heritage sites, and as such, clean toilets are to be expected!  But these are exceptional! 

Some even had attendants…

We also found that, in some parts of China, especially in the ethnic minority areas, there was often an attendant who ensured that all was well (clean and paper supplied)…

Toilet attendant at toilets in Datong Miao village.
Toilet attendant at toilets in Datong Miao village.

… and occasional instructions

…and very occasionally, signs exhorting good behaviour, made one smile.

There’s always ‘that’ exception…

Men's toilet. Huayang.
The worst toilet I came across (Huayang, Shaanxi province)

Roadside Rest Stops – familiar facilities

If you are looking for a Western-type toilet we discovered that most service areas on the motorways provide Western-type toilets for people with disabilities. 

Typical modern toilet block, including toilets for invalids, at a service station on road to Zunyi
Typical modern toilet block, including toilets for people with disabilites, at a service station on road to Zunyi,

Hotels – just ask

If your hotel bathroom only has a classical squat type toilet, the staff at the hotel may have commode-type chairs available. Just ask.

Commode chair next to typical Chinese toilet,  in the 'Worker Peasant Soldier Hotel', Dayi, nr. Chengdu, Sichuan province
Commode-type chair next to typical Chinese toilet – in the ‘Worker Peasant Soldier Hotel’, Dayi, near Chengdu, Sichuan province.

So, briefly, Chinese toilets, at least for men are very ‘respectable’.  Let’s hope that things are improving for women. 

Duncan France